Can PIM data models be “media neutral”?
In most cases, output channels get the required product information from upstream systems – ideally not from several individual systems, but from a central PIM system (PIM – Product Information Management). In order to be able to manage product information, an appropriate storage structure for product information, a PIM data model, has to be created.
Usually, to define a PIM data model you will have to consider the following issues:
- Are there any products that are linked to specific articles in PIM and that have to be managed along with products available for order?
- Which type of description texts will be needed?
- Is it necessary to store logistic data and prices in the PIM system or do source systems supply the information directly to output channels?
- Is a data management structure (including feature lists) required?
- Which kind of item references are required? (e.g. successor, cross-selling, up-selling etc.)
- Which kind of images can be stored with the article and managed in PIM?
To answer these questions you will have to have a closer look at the output channels of the PIM system. You will have to compare the data model requirements of the individual output channels in order to determine the information that can be used for all output channels.
But there is also channel-specific information that has to be managed in PIM: from specific description texts that may differ in type and length for each output channel, to distinctive features (quality, size), to navigation structures and synonyms for search terms that may vary depending on the output channels’ search strategies which may be aimed at different target groups. During this process we are always faced with the question of how much of the product information is media neutral and therefore reusable.
My answer is: “It depends.” It depends on the number of output channels to which the PIM system provides data and on whether you need to supply different information to different output channels. The latter depends on how much you want to differentiate yourself from competition. Still, it’s always worth considering how much media-independent information you should include, because the effort in order to achieve a specific product data quality as well as the complexity of the PIM data model depend on it.
What is your experience with this topic? It would be particularly interesting to know to what extent your product information is dependent on the output channels or if you have the option of creating media-independent information.